Thursday, May 17, 2007

Don't bank on it

Something you technophiles really ought to know:

When you pay a bill online, there is a delay. This is true even if you pay online through the creditor's website. It is even more true if you pay through your own bank's website, with rare exceptions.

It works like this:

You go on your bank's website. You tell the bill pay function to pay a bill. You relax. Must be paid, automatically debited from your account, right?


The funds are paid electronically ONLY if your bank has an EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) agreement with your creditor. This may take up to several days; four to five business days is considered reasonable by many banks (including mine.)

If they don't have an EFT agreement (which is by far the more common arrangement)...

Your bank waits until they have a sufficient number of "electronic" checks to process and batch print. They process the payments and then they PRINT OUT CHECKS AND PUT THEM IN THE SNAIL MAIL.

That's right. Slower than if you had done it yourself with a snail mailed check.

If you pay online on your creditors' sites, leave three business days of elbow room before the due date. If you pay online on a bill-pay service's site (such as your bank's, or worse, a check cashing institution's or something like that), leave at least a week before the due date.

In my own bank's case, the situation is also fraught with computer replications of human error... a nine-digit bank account number needs a 0 in front of it in order to properly fill a (California) 10-digit account blank and be properly accepted by a creditor's EFT. [Grumble.]

I know what you're thinking.

"But Linda, I do this all the time: why haven't I gotten in trouble?"

Because most creditors have grace periods and you are falling into the technically-late-but-not-cancel-me-late zone. However, you may be accruing late fees.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gym dandies

Whew... you might be able to tell by my prolonged absence that that walk kicked my butt. We never really knew in advance how long it was to be. First, I was told 5k. Then 5 miles. Then 10k. Then 5k. Then 10 miles. Finally, I was told it was to be 10k.

It was 9 miles. They intended it to be 10k but they mismeasured. Several pedometers and GoogleEarth confirm that it was indeed longer than it ought to have been.

We finished the walk and had our hands wrung by the March of Dimes organizers who told us how much they appreciated what we were doing for babies. I didn't know this, but they've recently made great strides against SIDS; children prone to SIDS have enzymatic anomalies that can be corrected by feeding them a little differently... thus saving their lives. That makes me feel really good. I have friends who have lost siblings to SIDS.

Thank you, those of you who donated. We were deeply touched that you had done so.

Me, I got blisters, sunshine, and to see four cities (they run together) as I had never seen them. Also, the pride of knowing that me, my brother, and my husband made the entire walk without having to stop.

So did all my officemates... including the one born in 1928. She did a lot better than I did. Of course, she does yoga and has perfect posture, and is a gorgeous clotheshorse, too, whereas I am a saftig couch potato.

So did the lady who did the walk in labor because she wanted it to go faster. When her contractions got to 4 minutes apart in the final half mile, she called an ambulance.

Sheesh. Talk about belittling a contribution. :)

We've been going to the gym, as you all know by now. It's a religion. It works like a religion; everyone you know there pumps your hand and grins in your face, celebrating your mutual suffering, just as they would if you were in church together. You meet with concerned disapproval if you miss it. You are doing something that everyone universally thinks is Good For You and it has a social dimension.

For some people, that social dimension is more social than for others. I'm talking about the people for whom the gym is an opportunity for flirting, for sweating together and showing off their flesh, for grunting and grimacing "involuntarily."

Any woman can tell you that the men in her life have a romantic notion of the ladies' locker room, in which girls are all over the place naked, applying lip gloss, and talking about boys. Any woman can also tell you that every time she's ever been in a locker room, it has not been like that. My gut feeling is that we shower at the gym less often than guys; when we do, we are businesslike, barely sociable, avoiding eye contact, rarely talking, covering up as soon as possible, protecting our modesty and the other women's privacy. Sort of a shame. Guys' image is so much more interesting.

Evidently, guys get this idea from the men's locker rooms. Pat and Robert complain about the "forest of weiners" and the "chatty naked guys" that clutter their path in the locker room. I can't help but imagine them (not the hubs and bro, the golden, long-limbed, oiled and godlike strangers of course) snapping each other with towels, sizing each other up, and thinking about making a date. Call me romantic. Anyway...

In every community, there's a few people who strut around flirting with one another and talking (conspicuously and loudly) a big game about their sexual identity. I can identify the men who do this almost immediately on sight; something they throw off in their cues is a red flag for me. No girls allowed.

Pat can't. The other day -- oh, I'll be honest, a couple weeks ago -- he was annoyed to find a bunch of men talking about their "girlfriends" (pronoun: "he") and their proclivities with some teenage members of their clique in the locker room. Naked. Wet. Fiddling with towels. Que romantique! The female brain (well, mine anyway) swoons. He hadn't noticed that they were strutting and preening for one another in the gym beforehand. He was shocked that I described their clique exactly when he had mentioned their conversation.

In the back of my head since that moment, there's been a gang... like the ones you find in roleplaying games and action films, e.g. immature pop culture built on romantic notions... called the Gym Dandies. And now it's in yours. This is my gift to you.

Friday, May 4, 2007

wolves are good for you

My co-worker sent me this one and I like it, despite its obvious manipulative fictionality:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Yup. Pretty much.

I cannot think about wolves without thinking about Kenny, a guy we used to play roleplaying games with in North Carolina. His character had pet wolves, with whom he was spiritually bonded or something. Kenny began acquiring wolf memorabilia: t-shirts, wall art, knick knacks, everything under the sun.

That game affected him profoundly. Something in the character and his pet wolf struck a chord with Kenny - a funny, quick-witted, shy, salt of the earth man who played games mostly to keep a friend company at first, and then became so obsessed with the game's plot that he would call me at 3:00 in the morning to ask questions.

Some might think of it as scary, but it was really an ego boost. That, and a delight. We had a connection in which we could discuss morality and nature, from the most trivial of hobbies and obsessions. From this and other similar games, I have developed the idea that playing such heuristic explorations of personal and ethical social orientation can be not only entertaining, but fundamentally, deeply human.

Kenny used to say, "wolves are good for you." It was his character's universal remark when people complained about his inclusion of his erstwhile pet/companions. It was his own remark when he was teased about his wolf memorabilia.

They were good for him. They totally revitalized his world view and his way of seeing his fellow man. They brought him out of his shell and gave him a "pack."

I haven't seen Kenny in years, but I remember him tenderly.

When you're next playing a game -- a roleplaying game, or "I spy," or any game you play -- step out of your own mind and into that of someone or something with which you can sympathize. What would you be like if you were a wolf? A scrub jay? A human of the other sex? A hero? An assassin? A clone?

When you are done playing, you'll still be yourself. Only bigger.

Wolves are good for you.

And I don't mean that in a furry way.